Walt Kuhn (1877-1949)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more An American Place: The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection
Walt Kuhn (1877-1949)

Lady in Robe (The Performer)

Walt Kuhn (1877-1949)
Lady in Robe (The Performer)
signed and dated 'Walt/Kuhn/1935' (lower left)
oil on canvas
40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 1935.
Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York.
Private collection, Great Neck, New York.
Christie's, New York, 26 May 1988, lot 335, sold by the above (as The Performer).
Sid Deutsch Gallery, New York, acquired from the above.
[With]Ronnie Meyerson, Inc., Bayville, New York.
Private collection, East Coast, acquired from the above, 1992.
Sotheby's, New York, 19 May 2011, lot 29, sold by the above.
Acquired by the late owner from the above.
New York, Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Inc.; Portland, Maine, Barridoff Galleries; Flint, Michigan, Flint Institute of Arts, Walt Kuhn (1877-1949), May 1-November 11, 1984, no. 30, illustrated.
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

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Lot Essay

Executed with simplified curving lines, a refined, largely monochromatic palette and a palpable solemnity, Walt Kuhn's Lady in Robe (The Performer) of 1935 embodies many of the characteristics of the artist's most famous painting, The White Clown (1929, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.). In the present painting, as critic Frank Geitlin wrote of that seminal work, "The coloring of the picture...can hardly be called emotional. It is austere, almost black and white. But 'Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare,' and it is from this austere geometry that the haunting beauty of Kuhn's art arises. The face of the White Clown is not particularly tragic. It is sad, somewhat, tired no doubt. Mostly, it is simply there: no longer crinkled into professional smiles, but now at ease in normal introspective concern. The effect comes from the powerful, constricted geometry built up to and around to that face." (as quoted in P.R. Adams, Walt Kuhn, Painter: His Life and Work, Columbus, Ohio, 1978, p. 118)

In Lady in Robe (The Performer), rather than a clean muscular form leading the eye to the face, as in The White Clown, Kuhn has instead bedecked his female performer in a ruffled ensemble that at once draws the viewer up to her distanced expression and down to her revealed décolleté and crossed legs. As a result, the work not only explores the psychology of performers once they leave the stage, but can also be seen as an exploration of the male gaze on the female form.

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